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Showing posts from September, 2007

High school credit and accountability

Some time ago, I started looking into high school credit for courses taken in middle school. I asked around about it and eventually discovered a state law that requires Districts to award it. At the end of the last school year, in accordance with the state law, I requested high school credit for the Integrated I class my daughter took at Washington. That's when the fun began. My request bounced around a couple times. I sent it to the student learning committee, who sent it to the Chief Academic Officer, who sent it to the Director of High Schools. Finally, I complained about the run-around and said that if we could not work on this cooperatively and collaboratively, then I would have to move forward unilaterally, and it would become confrontational. On August 7 I got an email from Ms Santorno saying that she would take care of it by the end of September. Well, September has ended but I haven't heard from her. Not a peep. So I have written to her and made myself very clear. I

Cleveland High School Remodel

After a full school remodel and millions of dollars spent, Cleveland High School is now paying additional money to bring in lockers, which weren't part of the original design. Read Nina Shapiro's article in the Seattle Weekly : $67 Million for Cleveland High and No Lockers? for details. I'm bothered not only by the waste and poor planning, but also by the fact that Cleveland High School (and I guess by extension the Seattle School District) are so quickly giving up on the four academies small-school design put into place only a few years ago with Gates Foundation money.

District Seeks New Advisory Committee Members

New announcement on the District News and Calendar page: School-Family Partnership Advisory Committee seeks new members; nominations due Oct. 12 Seattle Public Schools is seeking new members to serve on the School-Family Partnership Advisory Committee. The deadline to turn in nomination forms is Friday, Oct. 12, 2007. The committee will implement the School-Family Partnership Policy, and advise the Superintendent on ways to most effectively involve families in teaching and learning. Family engagement in education is critical to student success. If you are interested or know of someone interested in serving on the School-Family Partnership Advisory Committee, please complete and submit a nomination form by Oct. 12. Click here to download a nomination form or here for a description of the committee.

Are you in District 5?

Lunch announcement from Dr. Goodloe-Johnson: "Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson cordially invites you to an informal community gathering with School Board District 5 Director Mary Bass from noon-1:15 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2 at Meany Middle School, 301 21st Ave. E. Lunch (chicken Caesar salad, hamburger and fries, or turkey weiner wrap) will be available for purchase at Meany for $3.50. Please RSVP with your lunch choice by noon Oct. 1 to Pat McKenzie in Public Affairs at pmckenzie@seattleschools.org or 206-252-0200. This community gathering is open to anyone in District 5, so please feel free to let your friends, neighbors, and colleagues know about it."

Shoreline District and Their Teacher Woes

This article was in today's Times about the Shoreline district and their teacher walkout that first was averted but is now back on for tomorrow. The issue: "The Shoreline Education Association, backed by many parents, blames administrators for making elementary-school students bear the brunt of the latest cost-saving measure: boosting some class sizes three weeks into the school year." Why did this happen? A new influx of students just 3 weeks after school started? Nope. "The district's financial troubles blew up in 2005 when a series of mistakes by top staffers resulted in a $5 million shortfall. Two years and two superintendents later, the district has balanced its $85 million budget. The state, as part of its oversight, requires the district to be out of the hole in August 2008. If that doesn't happen, the state could assign a budget manager to the district or take other steps. Last year, Shoreline was still $1.5 million in the red. In the latest

Bus Problems?

I’m trying to figure out how widespread might be the bus problems that are affecting some families at my son’s school. Apparently because of consolidation and elimination of some routes, plus some cranky new software, there seem to be many more complaints of longer bus rides, less safe stops, etc. Our own story isn’t that horrible I suppose (we have to be at the stop 24 minutes earlier in the morning), but it is annoying and frustrating, especially since it was hard to reach the Transportation Office for weeks, and now they say that there probably isn’t anything to be done. (They are still working through the situations where kids have no bus!) We’ve had the same stop for 4 years, and the bus seemed plenty full in years past. I’m a big fan of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t mess with it” philosophy, but maybe that’s just my privilege showing through, because the status quo was working for me. Clearly it is a difficult and complex job to map out bus routes, and of course no one wants t

What Is She Trying to Say?

Help me out here. Lynne Varner, education editorialist for the Times, had a piece printed today. It is titled, "Privilege is the trump card, and not just in rural Jena". [In case it missed your attention, Jena is this small town in Louisana where some white students hung nooses from a tree after a black student sat under the tree. The tree is "reserved" for white students to sit under. (Now, of course, the obvious question is why would any school administrator put up with such a designation?) Tensions ran high after the nooses were put up, words were exchanged and eventually, a white student was beaten up by 6 black students. The white student had injuries severe enough to go to the hospital but was able to leave the hospital and attend a school function the same night. The black students were charged with attempted murder and the case has gone from there.] Now she takes the case and links it with...the racial tiebreaker case in SPS. The only thing

Special Ed; Special Needs

This article appeared in today's Times about special education students and the struggles their parents have in trying to get "appropriate services". I put quotes on that phrase because it is how the federal government puts it in law. However, what is appropriate? The first story in the article is about a child whose bus has been late for the first weeks of school for several years now. I suspect that he is on a bus with other special ed kids who need a smaller bus to be picked up in and those kids may change schools often (through no fault of their own if stories I've heard are true) but how does that prevent the bus from being on time? A couple of days late but weeks? From the article: "Everett was one of 12 school districts that last year challenged the state's special-education funding formula. Under that formula, special-education students received a flat-rate payment about double of what is paid for basic education students, regardless of the

New information available on WSS

New, detailed information is now available on the Weighted Staffing Standards. That information appears in a new FAQs document . The WSS appears to replace the old foundation allocation of the Weighted Student Formula. It provides equitable funding for non-classroom "core" staff, including principals, assistant principals, secretaries, nurses, librarians, counselors, registrars, and the like. Funding for teachers doesn't appear to be addressed. Most of the additional funding for schools (Title I, LAP, bilingual, Special Ed, and FRL) remains pretty much as it was, although some of it has been untangled a bit. Here is a link to the Powerpoint presentation that will be shown at the upcoming community meetings. The meetings will be at these times and locations: Monday, October 1, 2007 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. Hamilton International Middle School 1610 N. 41st St. Tuesday, October 2, 2007 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. First AME Church 1522 14th Ave. Thursday, October 4, 2007 6:30 – 8:00 p.m

Every student achieving, everyone accountable

There has been a lot of talk about accountability. The Superintendent is talking about it. The Chief Academic Officer is talking about it. The School Board is talking about it. The School Board candidates have been talking about it. But who, if anyone, is doing anything about it? In a recent thread about the NAEP, I noted that the District Policy on testing isn't being followed. Dan noted two other Policies that aren't being followed. On any given day I can probably point out a whole list of Policies that are getting ignored. So where is the accountability? A number of these policies are derived directly from the State law, so when the Policy isn't followed, a law is getting broken. But where is the accountability? I believe that most of the people who violate Policy aren't even aware that they are doing it. They simply haven't read the Policy. Do the motivations really matter? If the District staff doesn't comply with a Policy, does it make any difference if

Seattle Woman Scientist Wins MacArthur Award

As reported in both the Times and the PI, two local scientists have won MacArthur Fellowships which grant them $500,000 each with no strings attached. The winners are "Mark Roth is a biologist for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, whose studies of suspended animation hold out hope of new treatments for trauma, heart attack or stroke. Yoky Matsuoka combines robotics with the study of neurology at the University of Washington to devise prosthetic limbs that can be controlled by thoughts alone." I mention Yoky (who is part of the faculty in my husband's department at UW, Computer Science and Engineering) because she's a great example of a person in science who isn't a nerd or a geek. (Not that being a nerd or geek is a bad thing; look at Bill Gates.) But Yoky is great example for girls who wonder about being a scientist. From the article: "The MacArthur Foundation official who notifies genius-award winners issues a standard warning when the unsu

WA State Students Static in NAEP Testing

Reported in an article in today's Times, it looks like Washington State students are in a holding pattern as far as progress in taking the National Assessment of Educational Progress test is concerned. From the article: "But none of Washington's scores were significantly higher than they were in 2005, the last time the exams were given, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the part of the U.S. Department of Education that administers the exam. Washington's fourth-graders scored 224 out of a possible 500 in reading, compared with the national average of 220, and 265 in eighth-grade reading, compared with 261 nationally. In math, Washington's fourth-graders scored 243, compared with 239 nationally; and eighth graders scored 285 to the nation's average of 280. While Washington's scores didn't improve, 18 other states posted significant increases in fourth-grade reading, and six in eighth grade. And fourteen states and t

Saturday Might Be a Good Museum Day for the Kids

Looking for something fun (and educational) to do with the kids this Saturday? The Smithsonian Museum is sponsoring a free museum day this Saturday the 29th. (You need a free admission card available at the Smithsonian website . Among the freebies, Seattle Art Museum, Museum of Industry and even Experience Museum Project.

NCLB Discussion on KUOW Today

I just caught the tail end of a discussion on KUOW's The Conversation today about NCLB. What I heard was interesting but I'd like to hear the rest of it before I post about it. You can listen to their archive of the program at KUOW.org

Meet Steve Sundquist One on One

Steve Sundquist sent out an open invitation for people to meet him and talk about issues. I pass it on as informational (not in support of any candidate). Thursday, September 27, 9:15AM to 10:30AM at the Starbucks at Green Lake (71st and East Green Lake Way N) upstairs.

News Items

On KUOW this Tuesday morning 9 - 10 AM: Textbooks: Beyond the Culture Wars In this era of standardized testing, what role do textbooks play? In an era of multi-media access, how do textbooks fit into the education system? Are textbooks obsolete? How are they being updated? How are textbooks adopted (or rejected) in Seattle and other districts in the state and around the nation? Today we explore the changing world of textbooks with educators, authors and teachers. Call in to join the discussion. From the Seattle Council PTSA: Council PTSA GENERAL MEETING Monday, September 24, Stanford Center Auditorium, 2445 3rd Ave S, Seattle,WA 98134, 6:30pm Extra bonus! Light dinner and networking Meet other PTA leaders in your neighborhood or help us plan our legislative advocacy for the year! 7:00pm Vote to Endorse EHJR 4204 and Donate to the Simple Majority campaign Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson shares her academic plan for Seattle Public Schools and

From the Times: Letters to the Editor on DWT

Editor, The Times: Regarding "Billing in 'pro bono' cases is fodder for ethics debate" [Times, Local News, Sept. 17] and "Winner ought not take all" [editorial, Sept. 18]: I am utterly disgusted with the decision of law firm Davis Wright Tremaine to bill the Seattle School District for its "pro bono" representation of the plaintiffs in the school-discrimination case before the Supreme Court. It claims it is doing so to "punish" the district, but it needs to ask: Who is the district? It's us, the residents of Seattle who send our kids to public schools. Davis Wright Tremaine may have the right to bill the district, but it is still morally wrong. I don't imagine that any of the bazillion lawyers there send their kids to public schools, but they ought to drive by one of the southend schools sometime and look at the kids whose money they are about to take. Perhaps then Davis Wright Tremaine would find a sense of shame. — St

Promises kept

Who remembers the Board and the District staff saying that the school closures would result in significant savings for the District? Who remembers the Board saying that half of the savings from school closures would be reinvested in the consolidated schools? Who remembers the Board and the District staff saying that the consolidated schools would be able to offer more outside-the-classroom services, such as nurses, counselors, P.E. teachers, art teachers, and such when they have an enrollment closer to the model size? This was the presented as the REAL reason for consolidation, the academic reason. This was purportedly of greater importance than any budget crisis. Now let's look at the school budgets. Where is the savings from consolidation? I don't see it. In the Blue Book for High Point this year I see no additional funding as a consolidation bonus. Does High Point have more nurse FTE than last year? More counselor FTE? Any additional FTE of that sort? Show us.

Chris Vance on the WASL (Part Two)

There was a Part Two to the article by Chris Vance that appeared in Crosscuts. This one is how to fix the graduation standards. He first charts what was meant to happen and then, what did happen. One paragraph caught my eye: "This is the real crisis of accountability. Education reform was not intended to help the high achievers achieve more, it was designed to prevent at-risk kids from falling through the cracks. By setting minimum mandatory standards, we intended to prevent schools from passing on from one grade to the next kids who weren’t learning the basics and weren’t ready for post-secondary education or the workforce. Without the accountability measures called for in H.B. 1209, especially the mandatory graduation requirement, common sense and all available data indicate that practice continues today. Without clear standards and real accountability, we are failing the kids who need help the most." I had to shake my head over the phrase "not intended to help

Danny Westneat's column

There were some requests to post Danny Westneat's column that was in the Times yesterday. Here it is: The Bill Just Keeps Going Up On Jan. 2, two lawyers for Davis Wright Tremaine met to talk about what to do next in the big discrimination case against Seattle Public Schools. They had just argued the case before the U.S. Supreme Court. A decision wasn't due for months. So they went to work on another pressing matter: How to get paid. For an hour, the lawyers discussed ways to recover attorneys' fees from the schools if they won. One lawyer was tasked to research the matter, and the meeting ended. Cost billed to Seattle taxpayers for that meeting: $635. That's $370 for one lawyer's time, and $265 for the other one. All now being charged to the public schools. You've probably heard that Davis Wright Tremaine, after successfully arguing that the schools must stop using race in making school assignments, is billing the district for its costs. Though it to

Teachers With Guns (What's the Problem?)

Okay, you've divorced a guy but have reason to believe he may have gone into your home while you weren't there. You get a restraining order and a concealed weapons permit and a gun. Problem? You're a teacher and want to carry the gun to school but the district (in Oregon) has a no weapons policy. What to do? Sue, of course. This story appeared in the Mail Tribune newspaper in southern Oregon. Where to start? First, I feel for this woman but, as a parent, I would feel worried if I knew my child's teacher was in a situation that she felt her life endangered and she was with my child for 8 hours a day. It's a horrible situation for everyone. Second, this article points out that her lawyer says that state statute is contrary to the district's policy and that the law trumps the policy. (I wonder if that is true in Washington state?) "Both state and federal laws prohibit carrying a firearm on campus, according to Gerking. However, the laws come wi

Under the Category: You Never Know

This funny article in the NY Times tells the saga of how Warren Buffet getting rejected from Harvard, then asking a professor at Columbia for help, getting into Columbia, going on to form an investment firm (which the professor invested in and got rich off of) lead to the daughter of the professor to endow a private high school in Pennsylvania to the tune of ....$128M. It pays to be a mentor to young people sometimes in the most surprising ways.

More Thoughts on Student Assignment

So now the Seattle Times weighs in on the pro bono issue with an editorial this morning entitled "Winner Ought Not Take All". Considering that the Times' is a client of Davis Wright Tremaine, this might be considered a not-so-subtle hint to DWT. Good for them. The Times' did make an odd statement: "But in our view, the better method was investment in the struggling schools, not in a protracted legal fight. The U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling last winter outlawed the racial tiebreaker. As we predicted, the judgment came at a high cost, $435,000 in legal fees and growing racial isolation in some, mostly South End, schools." I found it confusing that the Times says they had been for the District settling and that continuing created "growing racial isolation" in some schools. Well, wasn't that the point of the District continuing on - to fight racially segregated schools? The Times' also says: "The matter goes before a judge a

Crosscut Article (with a new link)

I just wanted to repost this valuable article about the WASL that appeared in Crosscuts with a new link. It's always good to learn the history about an issue. It seems, somehow, the WASL has gone off the track initially desired by the people who set its birth into motion.

Article in Crosscut

Hello Chris Vance has published an interesting article about the history of how the WASL came about and what the original intentions of the people who wrote the laws surrounding the WASL were. It is a two part series. It is an interesting read. http://crosscut.com/k-12/7508/The+WASL+test%3A+What+went+wrong/

"Ethics Discussion" on Pro Bono in Times Article

The latest salvos in the on-going issue of Davis Wright Tremaine collecting "pro bono" fees for the racial tiebreaker case against SPS were in this article published in today's Times'. A couple of interesting statements: - "If a judge agrees to award the fees, Seattle Public Schools officials don't know whether the district's insurance will cover the amount; the district is self-insured up to $1 million. The rest would come out of either an insurance pool spread among several school districts or the district's own $490 million general-fund budget." I had been under the impression that the District was liable for all of the amount. If insurance covers $1M that would help. -"Anticipating backlash, Davis Wright Tremaine cited the Georgetown University-based Pro Bono Institute. According to that organization's Web site, collecting fees in pro bono cases is fine, but attorneys should donate the money, for example, to charity."

WASL Numbers Disputed in Times Story

This article appeared in today's Times. It is about how well the class of 2008 did on the WASL, depending on how you count the numbers. From the article: "Bergeson's office this year didn't count all the students it has counted in the past. For the first time, it looked only at seniors who've passed enough classes to be on track to graduate this June. That left out 5,457 members of the class who are considered juniors or sophomores because they're behind in credits. When those 5,457 students are added back, the passage rate drops from 84 percent to an estimated 81 percent — leaving about 15,000 students who still need to pass reading or writing on the WASL, or an alternative. When dropouts are considered — which some argue they should be — nearly a third of the class of 2008 has either left school or has yet to pass WASL reading, writing or both." Terry Bergeson, State Superintendent, and her office promise a more detailed report in a couple of mon

First Sign of District Direction from Carla/Maria

On the News and Calendar page of the SPS website there was a headline - West Seattle High School to Move to a Six-Period Schedule Format - and this link to a letter from Carla Santorno. In it, she outlines how WSHS is the only comprehensive high school with the 4-period format, how the review went, data used and that she has come to the decision that WSHS will go to a 6-period schedule for 2008-2009. Her reasoning is about academic achievement, availability of course offerings, system alignment within the district and mobility (interesting data: examining the high school classes between 2001-2007, excluding alternative schools, finds that about 10% of students will attend more than 1 high school. This might have some implications for the student assignment plan.). She then writes about strategies in helping the switch work smoothly. I wrote about this issue previously and once again, I am surprised that it has occurred (it was a parent generated complaint). Her reasoning seems

Cell Phones (again)

This article appeared in today's Times' about cell phone usage in schools. This stuff just drives me crazy. There had been another article previous to this in the Times and a letter to the editor said it all, "Who's in charge - the kids or the school?" One of the key issues here (and I'll probably write a related post based on a meeting I attended this week about underage drinking in northeast schools in Seattle) is ...parents. What is up with parents and this need to be able to reach your child at all times? Your child is at school; find out what time their lunch hour is and call then. It's the same with the district and the school administrator. If you have a policy, enforce it. Tell teachers "this means you" and do not allow differences from class to class. As a parent of a teen, I can tell you that the minute there are "exceptions" teenagers crack that loophole wide open. This is a good article because it talks abo

WASL From a Teacher's POV

This op-ed piece appeared in yesterday's PI. It was written by Fred Strine, a teacher from North Bend. His viewpoint? "Under political pressure tax-supported public schools have simply degenerated into WASL factories." He also says, "I honestly believe most parents will be appalled that their children cover 25 percent less than in pre-WASL years. Some high schools even have half-day Fridays so teachers can brainstorm WASL prep." His piece is a bit of a rant - he clearly hates the WASL, the strictness it requires, the time it requires (I am with him on the time to give it - just too much time to take a test. Also, his comment about poetry being on last year's WASL so it gets a bump the next year kind of rang true. I was really surprised at how poetry-heavy my son's LA class was this year. It seemed odd but maybe that's the reason.) You should also read the replies; they mostly say that teachers are lazy, incompetent and that there is no teac

New Board Action Report

Have you noticed the new format of School Board Action Reports? They have some new sections. Each Action Report now has a section for each of several basic bits of information. They are: Date From Lead Staff Strategic Theme/Focus Area Title and brief description with introduction and action dates Timeline for Implementation Recommeded Motion Issue Best Practices Research and Data Sources Policy Implications Fiscal Impact/Revenue Source Community Engagement process Conclusion/Recommendation Attachments This is TOTALLY COOL! We cannot make data-based decisions unless we bring the data to the decision point. If people are going to be held accountable for doing community engagement, then we need to document when and how it was done. These action reports are WAY better than what we had before. Congratulations to those who created the new format. Good job!!

Times Editorial of Sept 13

The Times ran an editorial on the 13th, and I've read it through a few times now, but I'm not sure I understand what they are trying to say. They are hoping for detente. Detente is a guarded truce between enemies. Is that the best we can hope for from the relationship between the District and the City? Is cooperation not on the menu? The Times says that the Mayor and other City officials have voiced concerns about incompetence on the School Board. Have they? I searched the Times back issues for a report of such concerns but could not find one. In a Times article of November 7, 2006, reporter Bob Young wrote: "Nickels isn't even talking about his concern for Seattle schools and what he wants to do. At least not publicly." The myth of School Board incompetence was largely created by The Seattle Times and is actually rooted in the former Superintendent's incompetence - not the Board's. When I hear people talk about Board incompetence, I always ask them fo

New P-I Blog

Linda Thomas' Educating Mom blog closed, but the Seattle P-I has a new Education Blog, Chalkboard: A Parent Perspective on Education in Seattle , by Denise Gonazlez-Walker.

Librarians

This article appeared in today's Times about librarians, their role in schools and how some districts are cutting back. I have never been in a school where there was less than a full-time librarian but I know some schools need the money and only have a half-time librarian. I wonder how prevalent that is in SPS. One interesting fact I didn't know: "Washington is one of the few states that doesn't fund school libraries; instead, they are supported by local levy dollars." From the article: "In the age of information overload, librarians say their skills at finding authoritative and accurate sources and helping students think critically about what they read are more important than ever. But some districts around the state, including Darrington and Granite Falls, have cut librarian positions to balance their budgets. "The reality is that some districts and principals try to get test scores up by spending more time on test-taking and less time on open

News from the Seattle Council PTSA

Bernardo Ruiz named new SPS Family and Community Engagement Coordinator “The Family and Community Engagement Division of Equity, Race & Learning Support was recently developed to begin taking a systemic approach to family and community engagement. The Family and Community Engagement Division works collaboratively with other district programs, student families and diverse community organizations to support student academic achievement. This division plans and provides professional development on best practices to enhance school and district staffs’ ability to engage families from diverse ethnic, cultural, linguistic and socioeconomic backgrounds. It also provides trainings for families on how to support their child in school and acts as a resource connecting them to services in the community.” Bernardo Ruiz 206.252.0693 - bjruiz@seattleschools.org Hung Pham (Bilingual Community Liaison and Consulting Teacher for the Asian Community) 206.252.0163 - hpha

Election web site update

With the primaries of August 21 three weeks behind us and the general election of November 6 still several weeks away, talk about the upcoming school board elections has gone pretty quiet. And in this quiet, candidates have been working on their web sites. In District I, the candidates are Peter Maier and Sally Soriano . Mr. Maier has updated his web site. His picture is friendlier and he has added a page called " Read More " where he lists a few ideas which could serve as priorities for the District. Mr. Maier writes: " The job of the School Board, through a process of listening, outreach and collaboration, is to establish with the Superintendent a long-term vision, measurable goals, and achievable strategies for the District so that every child in every school has the opportunity for a quality education and a chance to succeed. " Whether you agree with that statement or not, five of the six priorities that Mr. Maier lists (establishing effective financial prac

FYI - Joint Board/City Council Meeting

The School Board is hosting members of the City Council at their quarterly meeting tomorrow (9/13) from 9:30-noon at the Stanford Center (generally in the auditorium). This is a great opportunity to be able to watch the interaction between these two groups (there are usually 3-4 members from each group) as well as to address them. There is a sign-in sheet available before the meeting and the speakers have their 3-minutes before the general business gets started. You may speak on any education-related subject (maybe anything; I've always spoken on education). These meetings are usually taped and rebroadcast on Channel 26. The two groups are pretty polite to each other because, after all, the Council has no power over the Board. But you can sense tension sometimes between the groups as the Council tries to get to the thinking, planning and execution by the District on some issues. I would be interested to see if any City Council or School Board candidates show up to the

Garfield Tops for National Merit Scholars for SPS

This listing of semi-finalists for National Merit Scholars appeared in today's Times. Lakeside had 33 (tops in the state) while Garfield had 22 (tops for public high schools in the state). Other SPS high schools on the list; Center School (1), Ingraham (2), Hale (1), and Roosevelt (7).

Weighted Staffing Standards

I have reviewed the material available on the Weighted Staffing Standards (WSS). It provides standardized "core" staffing for all schools. It provides additional staffing for large schools. It is also supposed to provide additional resources for schools with disabled, bilingual, and FRE students. What I don't see, however, is targeted class size reduction. I don't see anything in the WSS that specifically and directly addresses the academic achievement gap. Where is the additional staffing to reduce class sizes for students working below grade level? Where is there ANYTHING in this budget allocation plan that will help close the academic achievement gap? Shouldn't the District's budget be driven by the District's academic priorities? And isn't the District's number one academic priority to close the academic achievement gap? So shouldn't this spending plan be driven by that priority? So why don't I see it? There is absolutely no reference t

9/11; Did Your School Take Notice?

Today is the painful anniversary of 9/11, 2001. There is a lot that could be said but I thought I would ask what did or did not happen at your school and does it matter? To preface, my mom remembers Pearl Harbor Day like it was yesterday. We all have to try to imagine a country without TV images, no computers, nothing but words coming from a radio. It is what drove us into WWII and united a country with a common purpose. I remember when I was about 13 and my mom was telling me about rationing and women who never worked outside the home going out and working and everyone, everyone working together. Naively I said, "Why?". She just looked at me and said, "There was a war on! Everyone had a son, a husband, a father gone or dead. It's just what we did." But Pearl Harbor Day has eventually faded to a day in history. 9/11 was maybe more horrific because we were able to see it all unfold. Things that we were likely better off not seeing, we saw that day.

What Works (and What Likely Gets Left Behind)

This Times' article about the efforts of the Renton School District (and one school in particular) to boost their WASL scores may be a foretelling of what is to come for SPS. From the article: "Just a decade ago, the story at Bryn Mawr was starkly different. When Mather started there in 1998 about a quarter of students read at grade level and performance in other subjects was worse. Surrounded by a mix of low-rent apartments and tracts of aging homes, Bryn Mawr had a reputation as an unsafe school with unsuccessful students and incompetent teachers. But an overhaul of the curriculum and focus has helped the school to shake that reputation. The approach is simple: Ninety minutes of reading a day is mandatory for all students, weekly and quarterly assessments help teachers identify who needs intervention and who needs to be challenged. Four filing cabinets and two computers — one a backup — keep track of individual scores and helps monitor trends in individual classes, g

Informative Article in Ed Week on FERPA

This article was published in Education Week about FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) and its regulations. This review of it follows up on confusion over what Virginia Tech could or could not have done to prevent the tragedy that occurred under these regulations. (A FERPA form is sent home in every first-day packet in our District.) From the article: "At the K-12 level, FERPA generally allows parents to review their children’s educational records. Parents also must consent to the release of records that contain personally identifiable information. Once a student turns 18, or starts college, those rights transfer from the parent to the student. Under FERPA, schools are allowed, however, to release information from education records to parents if the health or safety of a student is at stake, or if the parents claim the student as a dependent on federal income-tax forms. At Virginia Tech, concern over violating privacy laws appears to have prevented some o

Hey! Some Good News!

This article appeared online at the Times' website. From the article: "The Dallas-based National Math & Science Initiative has awarded its first grants to seven states, including Washington, to pay for Advanced Placement training and incentive programs, the state Office of Public Instruction announced today. Intended to spur career interest in math and science, the grants are each worth up to $13.2 million over six years."

Paying the Costs of the Supreme Court Case

I did some research, talked to some people and here is what I have learned in terms of the fees that Davis Wright Tremaine is asking the District to pay. First I spoke with Jennifer McMinimee, one of the District's lawyers, about the case. She has been fielding quite a few calls about this issue including calls from other districts around the country about the use of race in assignments. I also e-mailed Dave Baca, Managing Director at DWT, who promptly wrote me back. Here's what they had to say about various issues that have been brought up. The issue of pro bono. To her credit, Ms. McMinimee said that pro bono does NOT mean free but rather it means "in the public interest". The American Bar Association has a policy that asks every law firm/lawyer to work for people who might otherwise not get the representation they need especially in the area of civil rights. (This is not to say that public defenders aren't good; they are some of the best lawyers around

Ed Week Open House

The website for Education Week sent me this e-mail and I thought I would pass it on in case anyone wanted to check out their resources for free (they normally charge a fee). I think they have some really good reading there. Now that summer is over, edweek.org is having an Open House to kick off the new school year! You are invited to come in and take a look around. You'll find everything you need to be up to speed on K-12 news, policy changes, commentary, analysis and more.

The PayPAMS Scam

Is anyone else as bothered as I am by the new lunch payment system, PayPAMS? The first day of school packet included a slick full-color flyer for PayPAMS with a statement about a "nominal service fee" for using the service. On the lunch menu, it says: "Seattle School District is pleased to offer PayPams as a meal payment service for students and families. Parents/guardians now have the convenience of paying using the internet or by phone using either a credit card/debit card anytime day or night. A service fee of 5.6% per payment is charged to the parent/guardian account at the time of the transaction. Pre-pay for school meals 24-7. Learn more about this service by visiting www.PayPams.com." I don't consider 5.6% a "nominal" fee. In fact, if you buy lunch for a middle school child for every day of the school year, that would mean PAMS would make over $20 from that child ($2.00 per lunch, 180 days per year.) Multiply that by the over 45,000 students i

So Here's the (Possible) Cost for the Supreme Court Case

This article appeared in today's Times about the cost to the district for the Supreme Court case involving tiebreakers. The District's own costs were $434,000 and the law firm, Davis Wright Tremaine, wants $1.8M (kind of takes your breath away). From the article: "Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voted with the majority, said in a separate opinion supporting his decision that racial balance is a worthy goal for school districts and that districts can use other methods to achieve it. That opinion has both the district and the parent group, Parents Involved in Community Schools, declaring victory. It's one reason the district, which spent about $434,000 on its portion of the seven-year battle, doesn't believe it should have to pay the plaintiffs' fees. Technically, the parents group still has to get a U.S. district judge to declare them the "prevailing party," said Seattle Public Schools attorney Shannon McMinimee." Those paragraphs raise som